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Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter

March 2009

 

In this issue:


Welcome

Upcoming Events and What's New

Featured Product How to Grow Your Law Practice on Shoestring Budget

Feature Article: Using Online Tools and Social Networking to Build Your Law Practice

What’s Happening on the Legal Ease Blog

 
 
Welcome

Welcome to all of the new subscribers to Lawyer Meltdown this month, and for all of you who asked questions. And a special welcome to the new subscribers who found me on Twitter! Thanks for joining us - we're happy to have you.

New subscribers have joined us from: Utah, California, Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, New York and Buenos Aires, Argentina! I hope you all enjoy the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter.

Keep those questions and your feedback coming, but please do not respond directly to this email. You can send questions, comments or suggestions for future topics for the newsletter at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com. I can't wait to hear from you.

 

 
What's New

 

 

spring flowersHooray - March is here and Spring has officially arrived! I hope you all enjoyed celebrating St. Patrick's Day and being Irish for a day.

 

Spring is a time of growth and new beginnings, and this month's theme and feature article are all about ways to grow your practice using low cost online options, including social networking sites and other sites that specifically cater to attorneys or those seeking legal services.

Please take a look at the list of upcoming events that I'll be attending, coordinating or speaking at. And if you decide to attend any of these events, please come and say hi!

 

 

Announcing...

My colleague, Paramjit Mahli of The Sun Communication Group has officially launched her new service, SCG Legal PR Network. It's a subscription-based service that connects attorneys with reporters seeking legal expertise for stories. It caters exclusively to the legal community. Here's what Paramjit says:

Are you ready to boost your legal practice with SCG Legal PR Network?

There's nothing like getting some major publicity to build your client base, move prospects along the all important sales funnel while building your credibility as an expert.  SCG Legal PR Network, is a very affordable way to start building your expert status. Its simple, we send press requests to our subscribers regularly.

As a special offer to all subscribers of the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter I’m offering:

  1. 1 Month FREE subscription to our Amethyst level.
  2. White Paper, “How To Get A Reporter’s Attention Without Losing Your Shirt”
  3. Checklist for conducting  interviews with reporters.

Here’s the catch you have to sign up for your complimentary free monthly membership within 24 hours, of receiving newsletter otherwise you will NOT receive the checklist.

Subscribe to SCG Legal PR Network

 

Upcoming Events

 

Starting a Law Practice

March 31, 2009 6-9 p.m., Suffolk County Bar Association, Hauppauge, New York

Come hear a panel of speakers discuss their personal experiences and share tips and practical advice for starting your practice. We'll be discussing everything from how to find the right office space to how to find clients. CLE credit provided. To register, see the Suffolk County Bar Association website.

 

ABA Techshow

April 2-4, 2009, Hilton Chicago, Chicago, IL

I won't be presenting at Techshow, but I will be attending, and plan to share what I learn with readers in the April issue of the Lawyer Meltdown Newsletter. If you're attending, please drop me a line and let me know. This conference is a wealth of information, not just on technology, but on management and marketing of a law practice. And it's a great networking and social event, too! For more information, and to register, see the Techshow website.

 

Connecting the Dots in 2009: Empower Yourself

May 6 , 2009, 6 p.m., Long Island, New York

I'm working with a group of professionals across a number of industries, including finance, marketing, executive and life coaching and professional organizing to put together an evening of networking and information for those seeking new business opportunities in 2009. Whether you're out of work, looking for a new job, a new career or starting your own law practice or business venture, this event is for you. Stay tuned to Twitter and my blog (or email me) for more details, including the event location.

 

ABA Law Practice Management and Young Lawyers Division Spring Meeting

May, 14-16, 2009, Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans, LA

I'll be both attending the conference and presenting. My presentation is scheduled for Saturday morning, May 16 from 10:15-11:15. That portion of the program is entitled, "Taking Charge of Your Practice in Tough Economic Times, and I'll be speaking specifically about updating your resume/bio and practical practice tips, but we'll be talking about many more issues as well. For more information about the conference, see the conference info on the ABA website.

 

Total Attorneys, "Get a Life" Conference

May 27-28, 2009, Hyatt Regency, Chicago, IL

I was honored to be asked to join an all-star panel of experts presenting at this multi-day seminar in Chicago this Spring. I'll be speaking on billing issues ("Billing 101: Fees, Finance and Frugality"), but experts including Larry Bodine, Gerry Riskin, Kevin O'Keefe and Stephen Fairley will also be presenting. You can get more information, including a conference agenda and bios of the participating speakers at the Total Practice Management Association site.

 

Thanks to all of my readers and clients for your support! I look forward to seeing you at one or more of the above events.

 

 
Featured Product

 

Grow Your Law Practice Audio Program

How to Grow Your Law Practice on a Shoestring Budget Home Study Version

Looking for a better way to get quality clients in a challenging economy? Take a look at the Home Study Program, “How to Grow Your Law Practice on a Shoestring Budget.” You can even purchase audios of the individual classes if you aren't interested in the whole series.

Audio #3 covers the first step in attracting high value clients – creating your ideal client profile. After all, you’ve got to know who your best clients are before you can reach them. And once you know who they are, audio #5 will help you create a marketing message to attract exactly the kinds of clients you want.

You can buy individual portions of the program or buy the whole series, which includes: strategies for managing your activities to make time for marketing, tips on networking, speaking engagements and writing (audios #1, 2, 4 and 6) as well as tips on getting media attention and establishing relationships with reporters – regardless of the size of your firm (audio #8). And finally, you’ll learn how to create client loyalty and referrals through excellent client service (audio #7).Click here for more information.

 

Leanna Hamill"The 8 week teleclass was the best money I have spent on my law practice (and still is).   The class on Identifying Your Ideal Client alone was worth the purchase price of the whole class. I definitely saw a difference in my practice after taking that class.  The materials are so well put together and have so much information, they are great. 

Every few months I go back and redo the exercises, to see if things have changed, if I need to tweak anything and to see what's been working.  And, I still listen to the CD's when I'm driving sometimes." 

 Leanna Hamill, Attorney at Law
Estate planning-Elder Law
160 Old Derby St., Suite 25
Hingham, MA
P:781.749.2284
F:866.573.6429
http://www.hamilllawoffice.com

“I have really enjoyed listening to both of you. I have learned a lot from both of you, and it has caused me to do a lot of thinking about my clients and my practice. Candidly, the class exceeded my expectations about receiving information to "put it all together" to market my practice.

Thank you both for putting together and presenting a great class.”

Mark R. Callender, Esq.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
http://www.markcallender.com

 

“The seminar exceeded my expectations because it contained so much information that taking the course again is something I think I would do.  There were many levels of marketing that were addressed and a ton of information.

My business has grown tremendously as a result of the marketing seminar.  I was able to increase my rates, fire bad clients or let them move on.  I now have a better evaluating tool for clients and can figure out who will be a good client by objective evaluation of the circumstances.  I now have a much better idea of who my ideal client is."  

Vaughn J. Buffalo
Buffalo & Associates LLC
26 Broadway, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
212-785-3232

Click here to purchase "How to Grow Your Law Practice on a Shoestring Budget"

 

To see my other products, visit my products and services page.

 

 

 
Feature Article

 

Using Online Tools and Social Media to Build your Law Practice

 

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from lawyers is, “How can I get started with marketing, particularly if I don’t have a big marketing budget or steady cash flow yet?” Since most lawyers already consider a computer and an internet connection to be essential to their law practice, making use of online opportunities for business development is certainly one way to get started.

 

This article is not meant to be a comprehensive or exhaustive list of social networking sites or online business development opportunities; rather, it is meant to introduce some online methods of business development. Coverage of any particular tool in this article is not meant to be an endorsement of that site or a guarantee that the site or tool will work for you; research on any of these tools will likely turn up both positive and negative comments about each. My intent is merely to introduce the idea of developing your practice on the internet, provide you with some places to start, and pass on some success stories of lawyers that have used these tools.

 

As attorney Leanna Hamill pointed out in a recent seminar she gave to attorneys in Massachusetts, some of these online avenues are a great way for attorneys to start building up an online presence with profiles that can be found by search engines even before the attorney has had an opportunity to set up their own website or blog

 

What you get out of these online opportunities depends on what you put into them. The more complete your profiles are, the more frequently they’re updated, the more you participate by answering questions or posting, joining groups and contributing to the discussions, the better your results will be. In the same way that attending networking events and standing in the corner or collecting piles of business cards aren’t effective without further efforts, simply ‘lurking’ in an online space isn’t likely to bear significant fruit.

 

I encourage you to investigate and experiment with one or more of these avenues. As with any other marketing and business development tool or technique, internet business development activities should be part of an overall marketing plan and strategy which includes both online and offline activities.

 

Some words of caution:

Once you begin participating, if you stop participating and the content becomes stale, it will still be accessible and may result in a bad impression. Just like old content on a website (i.e. “upcoming events” that all passed three years ago) can be more damaging than no content at all; stale profiles and may reflect poorly on you. In some instances (including, possibly, Avvo, failure to continue to update or keep your profiles and other online content current may result in a reduced rating).

 

Each jurisdiction in the U.S. has its own ethical and professional conduct rules. Some of these rules make participation in some of these online business development arenas difficult, if not impossible. Pay particular attention to your state’s ethical rules regarding client testimonials and endorsements; I suspect that there may be either litigation or ethics opinions in the not too distant future regarding recommendations and endorsements on third party sites like Avvo and LinkedIn.

 

As with all online activities, be careful what you post on any of these sites, as you may not always be able to remove content or retain control of the content you put on the internet: once it’s up there and accessible it may follow you forever.

 

Avvo: www.Avvo.com
Avvo has been, and continues to be, a controversial online lawyer directory. Avvo is not yet available in all states, but they have been expanding. Although Martindale-Hubbell has been rating lawyers for years and has been universally accepted, other online lawyer rating sites have had difficulty gaining acceptance and are frequently criticized.

 

Avvo rates lawyers based upon the information in the lawyer’s profile. If Avvo is operating in your state, you have a profile on their site, whether you like it or not. The initial profile, before it is claimed by the lawyer, will include only publicly available information (usually information obtained from the state bar) and will indicate whether any disciplinary actions have been taken against the lawyer. An unclaimed profile of a lawyer with no record of disciplinary action will most likely contain a ‘no concern’ rating and few details.

 

If you choose to claim your Avvo profile, be as complete as possible and provide as much information as you can. The more complete your profile, including articles written and seminars given, past experiences, case studies or examples of the services you provide, etc., the better your rating – and the more complete picture of you. (This is true of other online profiles as well).

 

In addition to your Avvo profile, Avvo provides the ability to answer questions, write legal guides and endorse other attorneys. There are also opportunities for attorneys and clients to endorse you on Avvo.

Whether you like Avvo or not, to web visitors it may appear to be more objective than an attorney’s own materials (website, blog, brochure, etc.) because it is a third party site and is open for public comment. While testimonials on your own site are great (and even encouraged), everyone knows that you are probably not going to post unfavorable client comments on your own website or blog (or even your LinkedIn profile).

Boston-area estate planning lawyer Leanna Hamill answered some questions on the Avvo site, provided a link to her blog for some additional relevant information and received a call the following day, resulting in an estate planning client. Leanna says, “I think the value in Avvo come from answering questions in your state, in your practice area, and giving a good answer.”

Sacramento, California litigator Jonathan Stein says, “I have been using Avvo for the past 6-8 months and it has been a very successful component of my overall marketing plan. My Avvo profile is 80% complete, I have done legal guides for Avvo and I answer questions when I have the time. Once I claimed and filled in my profile, I started getting calls and email inquiries weekly, and the volume of calls has increased over time. My conversion rate for Avvo-related inquiries is very high.”


JD Supra: www.jdsupra.com
JD Supra is a website started by Aviva Cuyler, a California attorney, as an online resource for legal documents, filings, pleadings, articles, decisions, newsletters and more. Users can search documents by category or by contributor or share their own work. You can create a profile on JD Supra, but in order to activate it, you must contribute a document to the site.

 

JD Supra’s features include feeds to various news sources and frequent updates and email digests to specific audiences. They work hard to live up to their tagline, “Give content. Get noticed.” If you want to be known as an expert in your field and don’t mind sharing legal documents, decisions on your cases, presentations you’ve given or articles you’ve written, JD Supra is a good place to post them. Although it is relatively new, journalists have already found it and are using it, which translates into additional exposure for contributors.

 

Attorney Mitch Matorin reports that as a direct result of his participation in JD Supra, was featured in a New York Times article which included a large photo, and was quoted in another article. Traffic to his website spiked after the article appeared and he has noticed additional traffic to his site directly from the JD Supra site.

 

Justia: www.Justia.com  
Justia is another online directory that provides an avenue for lawyers to  post an online profile on a prominent website that gets good, targeted traffic. Justia indexes websites and blogs and provides search features that can help get you noticed, so take advantage of this feature as well.

 

David Abeshouse, a commercial litigator and mediator, had this to say when asked for input about Justia, “Literally just today I got an inquiry through Justia from the President of a company who needs representation in a commercial arbitration matter.  We exchanged several e-mails, and the company may be hiring me shortly.”

 

Facebook: www.facebook.com
While many consider Facebook to be a purely personal social networking tool, more and more professionals have been turning to Facebook as a way to extend their networks, demonstrate their expertise and put a human face on their practice.

Joseph Dang, a small business lawyer with a new solo practice in San Diego says, “I just started my practice in late January, and have done no traditional advertising, but have gotten two potential clients just by starting a Facebook page and putting down I was an attorney.” The people who contacted Joseph through Facebook were acquaintances or friends from high school, neither of whom were in contact with Joseph for several years. Without Facebook, those inquiries just wouldn’t have materialized.  One of them became a business client.

 

Twitter: www.Twitter.com  
Twitter is a ‘microblogging site’ where users post short (140 character) snippets answering the question, “What are you doing?” Admittedly, Twitter is difficult to explain, and as most Twitter users will tell you, it sounded stupid to them when they first heard about it, too. Many will tell you that it simply isn’t possible to ‘get’ Twitter until you try it. But if you’re looking to connect with clients, referral sources and influencers in a fast, easy and fun way, it is worth investigating.

 

Twitter is valuable because it allows you to ‘follow’ others and for them to ‘follow you (which means that your Twitter posts get sent to their screen directly). It’s a bit like instant messaging with many, many people all at the same time. It is most effective when used with a service such as tweetdeck (www.tweetdeck.com) that helps organize posts and people.

 

Many lawyers and business people use Twitter either as a tool to gather information about their industry or their clients and clients/ industries by following industry leaders, or to disseminate content quickly and link to other articles or information that is helpful to their target market.

 

Coach, consultant and author Ed Poll saw success with Twitter almost immediately. Two days after his first post, he got a call asking him to speak at a major gathering. Only four weeks after starting on Twitter, he had about half as many ‘followers’ on Twitter as he had on his electronic newsletter database that has been growing for several years. And although it wasn’t directly attributable to Twitter, his internet presence resulted in a request by a major publisher to write a book.

 

Lawyers and law firms spend endless money and time on ‘search engine optimization’ and other methods to drive traffic to their websites. Twitter allows participants to reach hundreds (and in some cases, thousands) of ‘followers’ with valuable content on a daily basis and drive them to specific information or landing pages on their websites or blogs. 

 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com
LinkedIn is a social networking site developed for professionals and business people (perhaps it should be called a business networking site?), and is yet another opportunity to post your profile and photograph online. But LinkedIn has the added benefit of an online network; you can link to referral sources, clients, business associates and others.

 

One of the big advantages to LinkedIn is that if another LinkedIn member has a public profile, you can view their profile and the people to whom they are connected. This is a huge advantage for networking and introduction purposes. You can also search LinkedIn to find people in industries or companies you’d like to connect with. You can view their network and see whether you have any common connections, leading the way to ‘warm’ calls, introductions and referrals.

 

As with Avvo, you can give and receive endorsements of others. But unlike Avvo, LinkedIn endorsements must be approved by you and by the person giving the endorsement. Either has the ability to remove the endorsement at any time.

 

LinkedIn also provides opportunities to join groups and participate in discussions, as well as to answer questions posed by other LinkedIn members, both avenues to demonstrate your expertise. Long Island attorney David Abeshouse reports, “I used LinkedIn Groups to start a “Group Discussion” targeted at lawyers who might be interested in visiting, and eventually joining, the lawyers networking group that I co-founded on Long Island.  As a result, several prospects contacted me.” He also indicated that the director of business development for a major regional consulting firm found him through the people search function LinkedIn. They exchanged emails, followed by telephone calls and in person meetings with the initial contact and several key partners. The firm is comprised of a few hundred professionals, with huge potential for business for David.

 

Some other online sites to investigate include:

Law Guru www.lawguru.com
Yet another online lawyer directory and question and answer forum, Law Guru provides an opportunity to reach clients directly by answering questions and creating a searchable profile.

 

Google Local www.google.com/local, and Merchant Circle www.merchantcircle.com
These sites are two other available options for posting your business profile. They are free, online searchable directories that are indexed by the search engines (or affiliated directly with the search engines). Studies have shown that many consumers of legal services search for lawyers in their local area by entering such search terms as “Massachusetts estate lawyer” or “Long Island criminal lawyer” and these local directories may be your best bet for hits on those kinds of searches to drive people to your website or blog, where you can provide more detailed information.

Any of the above tools can work for you, but they must be part of an overall, integrated marketing plan that targets the clients, potential clients and referral sources that you most want to work with. For example, Jonathan Stein participates not just on Avvo, but he writes for his own blog, has a website and has stepped up his public relations efforts, appearing on television, radio and has been quoted in several newspapers and magazines. Each of these individual marketing efforts can link to and support each other; cumulatively, they reinforce and multiply the individual effect of each effort. Your online activities should also be supplemented by offline activities, including attending events and meeting people in person (or at least speaking with them over the telephone).

Elaine Martin a Dallas, Texas immigration attorney, says that she goes to online resources first when she is seeking information, so it makes sense to her to participate online; if she’s there, chances are good that her clients are, too. Martin’s practice is federal, rather than confined to one jurisdiction. As a result, she has clients spread over the U.S.   Her online activities give her broad exposure that would be difficult to obtain with other marketing methods.

 

The results achieved by the lawyers mentioned here do not have to require a huge investment of time or a long history of participation. David Abeshouse attributes his success on LinkedIn to filling out his profile “completely and descriptively, using appropriately targeted keywords,” and being receptive and responsive to the inquiries he received.  As David says, “It’s not rocket science.  But too many people simply don’t make the effort, and so don’t stand out.”

 

Joseph Dang reports that he received a prospect just by completing his Justia profile; the prospect did a search and Joseph’s information came up. As of my last contact with Joseph, he was in the process of signing up that contact as a new client. Joseph also emphasizes the importance of an integrated marketing strategy by pointing out that the prospects that found him online all visited his blog before contacting him.

 

Elaine Martin’s practice has been open since September 2008. She answers questions on Avvo and receives inquiries as a result. She uses Facebook primarily for personal reasons but makes sure that she mentions her practice to remind her ‘friends’ about her work, which has led directly to new business. Her Justia profile has also generated inquiries, and her participation in LinkedIn forums and discussions generated three potential clients in the space of one week.

 

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Savvy lawyers know that it often takes many contacts over a period of time to establish that relationship of trust and for potential clients to decide to hire – or even contact – you. If your potential clients are ‘following’ you on Twitter, see your name on other social networking sites, are directed to your articles, answers or discussions online, you’re staying ‘top of mind’ and reinforcing your message over time, while at the same time showcasing your knowledge and skills, providing information your audience is seeking, and demonstrating (rather than just telling about) your expertise.

 

Spring – the time of change and rebirth – has arrived. Why not take this opportunity to reinvent your business development efforts by getting more involved online?

Want more information about social networking and online business development? See “What’s New on the Legal Ease Blog” below.

LinkedIn

Follow me on Twitter

 

Do you want to improve your firm but don't know how or where to start? Do you know what you want to do, but can't find a way to get it done? Contact me to see how I can help.

 

 

 

 
 
What’s Happening on the Legal Ease Blog

Allison photoHere's a sampling of recent posts on the Legal Ease Blog:

 

Since it's women's history month, I had to do at least one post celebrating women:Celebrate Women's History Month - Learn about women leaders

 

Whether marketing to potential clients or communicating with clients who have already retained you, it's important to ensure that you and your clients are speaking the same language.

 

Now is no time to neglect your marketing: Is your law firm using marketing as a spare tire?

 

You may remember that last month I was asking questions about your malpractice policy:

What do you know about your malpractice coverage?

 

And In keeping with the March theme of social networking:

Who should I link to or 'friend' on social networking sites?

Tips for making connections on social networking sites

Do Something! Make the most of your online profile

(If you liked these posts, more are on the way later this month)

 

I am always interested in your comments and input on my blog psots, so please continue to stop by.

You can subscribe to our RSS feed or you can receive automatic updates by email. I also encourage you to join the conversation by posting comments or emailing me with suggestions for future posts.

 

You can also add my blog to your RSS feed reader or sign up to receive email updates - in other words, you don't have to remember to visit the blog to get great content - you can have it come directly to you.

 

 

If you're not already a subscriber, subscribe to this e-newsletter, and you’ll receive new articles in your in-box, along with the report, "Are you missing a crucial element in your marketing?". The articles in the newsletter are not available to the public – the only way to see those articles is to receive the newsletter. Feel free to pass this newsletter along to your friends and colleagues!

Already a subscriber? Want to learn how I can help you? Learn more about the products and services I offer by visiting my products and services page .

 

Thanks for reading -

 

All the best,

Allison

Legal Ease Consulting, Inc
Creating Productive, Profitable and Enjoyable Law Practices

View Allison Shields's profile on LinkedIn

P.S. Did you like this article? Want to use it for your own newsletter? Have suggestions for topics for future articles? Send me an email at Allison@LegalEaseConsulting.com.

 

DISCLAIMER: This website is for education and information purposes only, and is not intended to provide legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists or is created by the use of this site or the products and services described. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a professional attorney in your state.